Obama must lead

With the jobless rate at nearly 8 percent and the real jobless rate nearly double that; with our national GDP between zero percent and 2 percent over the last two quarters; with Europe continuing its painful recession while continuing on a grotesquely ill-advised austerity push; with child homelessness and poverty at crushing levels, it was economic malpractice and financial stupidity for the president and Congress to raise payroll taxes and enact the sequester.

Tomorrow, new jobless numbers will be announced. If the headline number hits 8 percent, there will be an intense and sustained public reaction. If it doesn’t happen this Friday, it will soon. Harsh economic austerity at a time of slow growth and allowing wages to fall and high unemployment ignores every lesson of history and promises to continue the war against workers and further punish the lost generation of laborers.

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On behalf of hurting children and jobless workers, I am going rogue. Few in this town give a damn about the jobless, PR notwithstanding. America is calling this tired town out. Nobody here is listening.

There is no excuse for the president’s failure to propose, champion, explain and fight like hell for the nation to support and Congress to enact alternatives to the sequester AND the substantial jobs program that has been needed for the last three years of the president’s first term, which remains urgently and desperately needed today. There was no excuse for the president to shout from the rooftops about the dangers of sequester while not doing a thing to prevent it. Americans need jobs, not spin, and leaders, not photo ops.

On the matter of calling out insiders, Matt Drudge gleefully highlights a poll showing President Obama’s popularity in the high 40s, while Republican John Feehery gleefully wrote on this page Tuesday that “the tag team of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are currently mopping the floor with Barack Obama.” Has marijuana been legalized in Washington, D.C.? The favorable ratings of the GOP brand compare with those of defective dog food. Obama at his worst looks like George Washington compared to Boehner, McConnell and House Republicans in public esteem.

If Obama’s legacy is remembered as “the 8 percent jobless presidency with 8 years of declining wages,” Boehner’s legacy is shaping up to be “the weakest Speaker in a century.” He is bullied by his own base, incapable of leading his party, fearful of a challenge from his No. 2, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, and impotently suggesting that Democrats meet without him to govern.

There is a “Les Miserables” quality to American society that the president should confront. The Dow soars to record highs, but the jobless rate remains cruel and unusual. American corporations live in a golden age of profits while they fire workers in massive numbers. Reminiscent of Marie Antoinette, JPMorgan Chairman James Dimon says to a Wall Street analyst “that’s why I am richer than you” while he receives massive welfare from the Fed. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer proves a wealthy woman can betray working moms as callously as the worst men.

The president should lead. For in every “Les Miserables,” there must be a Jean Valjean. The president should re-open the White House tours, speak to the nation from the president’s desk in the Oval Office, and lead the fight in word and deed for every American to have a decent job and a share of the dream.


Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.